But with Ventura controversially starting without attacking stars Lorenzo Insigne, Andrea Belotti and Stephan El Shaarawy, Sweden were able to hold firm and qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 2006.
"It will be tough for coach Gian Piero Ventura to find the right words to say to the group".
It was still goal-less at half-time, and the tension rose as time began to tick down in the second stanza, with Italy increasingly desperate to get the goal that would keep them in contention.
And now we have the catalogue of penalty appeals during this Italy-Sweden clash, all of which were overruled by Lahoz.
Four-time champions Italy face missing out on the World Cup for the first time since 1958 tonight, while Sweden are desperate to return to the world stage after missing the last two editions.
But the Azzurri struggled to carve out clear chances against a solid Sweden side, and really tested goalkeeper Robin Olsen only once.
The rot started long before Ventura took charge.
The Azzurri are one of the most successful teams at the World Cup, lifting the trophy in 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006, but now they won't even get the chance to participate in the tournament next summer.
However, Antonio Conte's Italy side overachieved in France past year, when it surprisingly beat Spain in the round of 16 before losing on penalties to world champion Germany.
The lack of stars in the Italy team is reflected in the Italian league.
Italy's player drop to the turf.
The Brazilian-born Jorginho was finally handed his competitive debut by Ventura, and the midfielder impressed with some deft passing.
Those fears proved well-founded in the first leg in Stockholm, where Italy went down to a 61st-minute deflected strike from Jakob Johansson.
"We know we've lost, but we have another 90 minutes to overcome this complicated situation".